No Contest: The Case Against Competition

Alfie Kohn

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0395631254

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


No Contest stands as the definitive critique of competition. Contrary to accepted wisdom, competition is not basic to human nature; it poisons our relationships and holds us back from doing our best. In this new edition, Alfie Kohn argues that the race to win turns all of us into losers.

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occupies in the instructional repertoire of teachers.” Eschewing the qualifiers that typically mute the impact of recommendations offered in academic essays, Sharan declares that whole-class teaching “often generates . . . social distance between peers in the classroom and between those from different ethnic groups in particular, insidious social comparison processes, more tightly knit cliques in classrooms, and many more students at the lower levels of achievement. . . . The fact is that

improved,” she reported, and while the competition did seem to spark some interest, it did so mostly among the winners.4 Morton Goldman and his associates discovered that undergraduates solved anagrams more effectively when they were cooperating rather than competing with each other.5 Abaineh Workie found “cooperation significantly more productive than competition” for high school students working on a card game.6 A well-known experiment that Morton Deutsch conducted with college students in 1948

run alongside each other as they continue their game (after all, it is only a game).16 Contrast the whimsical, mischievous, other-affirming, spur-of-the-moment delight depicted here with the grim, determined athletes who memorize plays and practice to the point of exhaustion in order to beat an opposing team. Clearly competition and play tug in two different directions. If you are trying to win, you are not engaged in true play. Several investigators have come to just this conclusion. M. J.

far the best way to promote perspective-taking. People tend to see things from the other person’s point of view when they are working with, rather than against, each other. • COMMUNICATION is improved through cooperation. Deutsch’s classic experiment with undergraduates showed that when students worked cooperatively, “more ideas were verbalized, and members were more attentive to one another. . . . They had fewer difficulties in communicating with or understanding others.” (With competition,

or, at the most, to find a convenient proximate cause. Rarely are events understood in their historical or economic or social context. As one of many possible examples of this, consider how we respond when our children fail to learn. Typically we insist that they are not studying hard enough or else we put the problem down to poor teaching. What we do not do is acknowledge that a two-tiered educational system funnels most of the promising teachers and the privileged children to the private

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